The ISTE Conference is coming up June 26-29, 2011. ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education and their yearly conference is a great way to learn about new technology, tools, and ideas on how to use those things with kids to engage and help them learn. Many of the Ed Tech “Gurus” attend and present at ISTE so it is also a great way to connect with people from around the nation who are using or want to use Technology in their classrooms. One great thing about this community is they like to share what they are doing and how they are doing it. They love to collaborate.

There is one issue about the ISTE Conference, it ain’t cheap and if you are locked in the middle of the country like the Ninja is, the Conference isn’t all that easy to get to. (And the next couple of years isn’t going to be much easier, 2012: San Diego, CA; 2013: San Antonio, TX; 2014: Atlanta, GA; 2015: Philadelphia, PA; they really like the perimeter of the country don’t they?)

So if you are like the Ninja, you aren’t going to ISTE to take advantage of all the learning and fun (though 2013 might be doable.) No reason to feel left out though, you can take in some of the adventure in Philadelphia from the comfort of your own home! There are two ways that you can going about this, the cheap way or the way that will cost you a little bit of money.

First, the one that will cost you some money: ISTE is offering both Virtual Workshops ($79.00) and Remote ISTE ($99). In the Virtual Workshops you will be able to view seven recorded workshops being streamed at various times during the day. The Remote ISTE is like attending an actual day of the conference. Choose from one of the two tracks (or mix and match), pre- and post-conference activities and access to resources. It also looks like you get a tour of poster session, playgrounds, and exhibits. Sounds cool.

Let’s be real honest though, the Ninja has his eye on a new MacBook Pro and is trying to budget for that, so can you attend ISTE on the cheap? Like for free? The answer is yes!

Remember how I said that the folks attending the conference loved to share. Well, that is definitely true when it comes to what they are learning at conference. They do that is several ways: They write reflections or “live blogs” of the sessions that they are attending but that isn’t typically as immediate as we would like. That’s when we need to turn to our old friend Twitter. No really! Stay with me. Attendees are nice enough to tweet out what they are learning, addresses to resources they receive in sessions, and in the past I have found presenters who have tweeted out addresses to live streams of their sessions for free! Awfully nice of them isn’t it? Through the use of Twitter you can really piece together some really cool stuff. Now it isn’t in a nice neat location like the Virtual Conference or the Remote ISTE but it is a whole lot cheaper!

How might you go about using Twitter to keep up on all the action at ISTE? Well it is really simple and you don’t even need to get an account (but the Ninja would highly recommend getting one). Here are a few steps to stay in the know from the comfy confines of your couch (or where ever you prefer to use the computer.)

  • Sign in to Twitter or if you aren’t getting an account (and you really should, just sayin’) go visit Twitter.
  • See, that wasn’t painful. Now, look for the search field. If you are logged in, it will be near the top of the page like the diagram below. If you are not logged in, it is large and in charge in the middle of the page. It will look like the second image below.

  • Now you are going to search for #ISTE11. Include the number sign or as Twitterites refer to them as hashtags.
  • This will bring up a list of Tweets that have been marked with the #ISTE11 hashtag. It will also let you know when there are new tweets with that hashtag.

Now a few tips about reading Twitter feeds or searches, because it can take some getting used to:

  • Mentions: You might see @username (for example: @edtechninja). This refers to another Twitter. This is called a mention. Someone might mention another Twitter user for many reasons. They may be replying to someone, they might be giving attribution to where they got the info in the tweet, they might just be mentioning another Twitter user or they might want that person to notice that particular tweet. You might see several @ mentions in one tweet, they are just different users and if you click on that it will take you to that person’s Twitter feed.
  • Hashtags: You will see  #hashtags in many tweets. Since you are searching for #ISTE11 you will see all of the tweets will have that hashtag. Hashtags are used to tag or group tweets to make them easier to find. Another hashtag that you might see is #edchat (an education chat that occurs on Twitter every Tuesday at 6 pm (CST) and #edtech which is the hashtag for tweets dealing with educational technology. Some people use hashtags to add humorous asides.
  • Shortened URLs: You will probably also see some odd-looking URLs or links. They might look like or or something similar. Those are links that have been made smaller so they fit within Twitter’s 144 character limit. Clicking on it will take you to the link.
  • With the huge amount of tweets that will be coming out of ISTE, you won’t be able to read every single one. Go in with a mind-set of getting what you can when you are online.
  • You might want to follow #ISTE2011, #peepsnotgoingtoiste, and #isteflashmob as well.
  • Look forward to seeing video from the ISTE Flash Mob! Double dream hands!
  • Watch out for Twitter give aways from ISTE Exhibitors. The Ninja even won something a few years ago and he wasn’t even at ISTE!

That’s the very basics of Twitter and you will quickly pick-up on the rest.

If you are lucky enough to go to ISTE, please remember those of us who are sitting at home trying to gleen everything we can from your blogging and tweeting. Share! Share! Share! Thanks in advance.

Any which way, the Ninja hopes that you are going to get in on the ISTE fun whether you are attending or even if you are a hundred miles away.